UK Tier 1 for General Highly Skilled Migrants begins

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Today, 29 February 2008, the United Kingdom has implemented Tier 1 for General Highly Skilled Migrants for Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP) visa holders seeking to extend their leave to remain in the UK. The rules also affect those wishing to switch into the Tier 1 for General Highly Skilled Migrants from another category.

Along with the announcement was clarification on information released by the Home Office in the 'Highly Skilled Migrants under the points based system Statement of Intent' released in December, such as the English language requirements.

workpermit.com will be updating the site to reflect these changes, as well as providing a comprehensive and easy-to-use points calculator to assist people in assessing their chances of qualifying, switching into, or extending their leave to remain under the Tier 1 General Highly Skilled Migrants rules.

Until then, below are some frequently asked questions related to HSMP visa holders and the new rules implemented today:

Who can switch into Tier 1 for General Highly Skilled Migrants?

For those who already legally resident in the UK, permission to switch into Tier 1 for General Highly Skilled Migrants is possible for:

  • HSMP visa holders
  • Innovators
  • People in the UK under the Fresh Talent: Working in Scotland scheme
  • International Graduates Scheme and Science and Engineering Graduates scheme participants
  • Postgraduate Doctors and Dentists
  • Students
  • Student Nurses
  • Students Re-sitting Examinations
  • Students Writing Thesis'
  • Work Permit holders

How long is leave granted as a Tier 1 (General) Migrant for those who switch to Tier 1 from another category (including HSMP)?

For those switching into Tier 1 for General Highly Skilled Migrants, leave to remain will be granted for three years. For those seeking extensions to their Tier 1 (General) Migrant visa in the future, after previously being granted leave under the same rules, leave will be granted for two years.

How is Age assessed for those switching from the HSMP?

  • 29 years of age and under: 20 points
  • 30 or 31 years of age: 10 points
  • 32 or 33 years of age: 5 points

How are Previous Earnings assessed for those switching from HSMP?

An applicant's Previous Earnings are assessed based on any consecutive 12 month period within the previous 15 months prior to the application for extension. There is an exception to this rule for those applicants who missed work due to maternity or adoption-related activities during this period.

Five extra points can be earned for UK Experience based on employment; however, an applicant is only eligible for this if they earned enough money to score points for Previous Earnings and at least 16,000 GBP was earned in the UK.

How will the new English language requirements work?

In addition to the 75 points applicants must score based on age, past earnings, 10 points must be earned for English language ability. To score the 10 points or have the test waived, applicants must satisfy one of the following:

  • Pass an acceptable English language test (such as IELTS) with a score at least equivalent to C1 of the Council of Europe's Common European Framework for Language Learning.
  • Be a citizen of one of the following majority English-speaking countres: Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, New Zealand, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and The Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, the USA
  • Have obtained a professional qualification, not including a professional or vocational qualification, which is considered at least equal to a UK Bachelor's, Master's, or PhD in one of the following countries: Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Ireland, Jamaica, New Zealand, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and The Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, the UK, the USA (note: Canada is NOT included in this list)
  • (Updated) If the degree was taken in another country, information provided by UK NARIC can verify if the English-taught degree is acceptable enough to satisfy the English language requirement.
  • Has or have previously been granted leave as a Tier 1 (General) Migrant (test is waived)
  • Has or have been previously been granted leave under the HSMP, if the leave was granted after the 5 December 2006 changes came into effect (test is waived)

The new rules announced today only concern those who are already in the UK and want to extend their leave to remain under the new Tier 1 rules for General Highly Skilled Migrants.

Starting on 01 April 2008, the HSMP scheme will end for applicants based in India, who will then be required to apply as a highly skilled migrant under the new Tier 1 rules. The same will follow for the rest of the world sometime in summer of 2008.